The Primary Focus of Independent Activism Should be the Election of Independent Activists

In an opinion piece for USA Today, Don Campbell calls on independents to "rise up" in 2010. Via The Hankster:
If there really is a surge of independents, it's the best political news of my lifetime because 2010 could be the year when unaffiliated voters systematically take ownership of elections . . . the best public service independents could perform in the next election cycle would be to force congressional candidates to drop the spin and talk straight about three overarching issues: the economy, national security and fiscal policy. That's it . . . the most intractable cycle in American politics is the re-election of congressional incumbents: Congress is a collection of bums — except for my representative, who's a dedicated public servant. That attitude helps explain why House members in the past 40 years have been re-elected nearly 95% of the time, on average, and except in a few dozen districts, have routinely received 60%-70% of the vote. This is where the independent can step in and help America break out of this rut . . . If independent activists can organize and affect the vote in just a handful of congressional districts, the political world will take notice . . . The time is right, and so is the plan: In 2010, the parties get to pick the candidates, but independents get to decide who wins.
This does not go nearly far enough. Independents should not be wasting precious resources, time and money, only to "decide who wins" between the Republican and the Democrat in a given race, on the basis of the naive idea that candidates must be forced to "drop the spin" and "talk straight." Among Democrats and Republicans, "dropping the spin" and "talking straight" is just another rhetorical mechanism of the well-oiled spin machine. Such a strategy does nothing but reproduce political dependence on the duopoly parties. The primary focus of independent activism should be the election of independent activists.


Liberal Arts Dude said...

Just a hypothetical situation to illustrate one dilemma that can be encountered in this approach. I'm an independent and I want to support independent runs for office by non-affiliated and third party candidates. But what if the ones running in my local elections do not agree with me on specific issues? For example, I'm a Progressive and the local independent candidate is an anti-abortion, Tea Party activist who is very conservative? And the local Democrat the independent wants to unseat is a strong Progressive?

I guess this is the crossroads where I have to decide between my loyalties as a Progressive, my beliefs on the ineffectiveness of the two-party system to represent my views, and whether or not electing the local independent Tea Party activist will bring the type of change I would like. It depends on the platform the Tea Party activist is running on.

What would motivate someone like me to vote for a conservative independent? If part of that independent's platform were to contain an element of electoral reform. Issues like Instant Runoff Voting and other methods of voting, ballot access, inclusion of independents and third party activists in the FEC and other government bodies which oversee elections, same day voter registration, making voting day a holiday or on a weekend to encourage voting, etc. These reform issues are where I see Progressives and conservatives can find common cause in cooperating across ideological lines to get something done that benefits all independent and third party candidates.

d.eris said...

Yes, what if there is no independent you can support in good conscience? This becomes another version of the old lesser of two evils choice. In this case, the two evils are a third party or indy candidate who you don't agree with on much, but at least they'd be independent, vs. a duopolist candidate who appears to be in line with a lot of your own policy preferences, but won't be a voice for independents. It's a difficult question. If any of the policy differences are "deal-breakers", then I guess in this hypothetical you're stuck with the duopoly candidate or can stay home. On the other hand, since indy campaigns tend to be small operations, you might be able to get involved and change it in some way.

Ross Levin said...

I think being a swing voter between the major parties and minor parties/independents actually gives a voter more power (at least in theory or if a lot of people do the same thing). It makes it so politicians have to work for your vote - you're not guaranteed to vote in any certain way.